Ageism Ignores and Insults the Competence of Adults

An older woman with short blonde hair in a teal blouse and wearing glasses looks at a box of food in the grocery store. Kampus Production/Pexels

In this article, Margaret Morganroth Gullette addresses the harm caused by ageism and “age shaming,” especially as it relates to assumptions made about the competence of older adults. Gullette is the author of Ending Ageism, or How to Not Shoot People, and the forthcoming book American Eldercide.

“Older adults, who have been treated for decades with ordinary courtesy in public spaces, don’t expect being treated normally to suddenly end when we arrive at a certain age. The unexpected disregard of our adult competence comes as a shock. It’s more than lack of respect for our white hair — it’s the assumption that we are stupidly at a loss. If this is termed a microaggression, we must not lose sight of how much harm it can do. Age-shaming is destructive of our shared humanity.”